social obligation in 'definiteness' in differential case marking systems?

jess tauber phonosemantics at
Sat Jul 26 15:31:57 UTC 2008

I'm hoping folks on the list can give me tips on languages they know of which mark social obligation as part of the semantics of definiteness in case marking.

I've found such a system hidden within Yahgan. When a particular suffix -nchi is added to a nominal there is a very strong implication of such connections. For instance in -nchikaia, where this suffix is followed by the dative form, other participants, and the action of the verb, conspire to create a benefactive, substitutive sense- as a recognized, trusted agent other who 'owes' such action to the marked entities, acting on their behalf, be they other family members, deities, religious sages, kings  etc. The agent gets his/her power from the marked entity, perhaps even the particular marching orders. Forms with dative but without the -nchi- ambivalently imply positive, neutral, or negative outcome for the marked NP, and no such relationship.

So, does anyone know of other languages that have something similar? Thanks.

Jess Tauber
phonosemantics at

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